Soldiers in the spotlight at Hayden’s Veterans Day program
Steamboat Springs — As James Diehl and Scott Berroth drove around Northwest Colorado in a GMC pickup Monday, the two men talked about how great it was to be veterans.
Murdoch’s in Craig gave them a 15 percent discount on their hunting equipment purchases.
The servers at Creekside Cafe in Steamboat Springs thanked them for their service.
Giant American flags greeted them on Jefferson Avenue in Hayden and from many mailboxes and houses along the way.
But the best perk had yet to come.
When Berroth’s daughter called from home in Topeka, Kan., to thank her dad for his service and wish him a happy Veterans Day, he had to put the call on speakerphone.
“You almost get choked up,” Berroth said at Hayden High School after he handed out American flags.
Berroth, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and Diehl, a Navy veteran, decided to come to Northwest Colorado from Kansas a few days earlier than they normally do each year because they wanted to participate in Hayden’s annual Veterans Day program.
They heard about it from their elk hunting guide, who teaches history at the high school.
“We were kicking ourselves for missing it last year,” Diehl said. “This is very special right here.”
At 11 a.m., Hayden students flooded into a dark auditorium to celebrate the many veterans and active-duty military personnel who have ties to their community.
This year’s ceremony had the middle and high school bands play songs and focused on remembering Sept. 11, 2001.
Many of the middle schoolers inside were just being born around the time of the attacks.
The program then shifted to honor several generations of veterans.
The older veterans sitting front row pointed and clapped when they saw their friends’ pictures displayed on the giant projector screen at the front of the auditorium.
“I like that they know we’re still here,” said Ron Staudt, an Air Force veteran who served from 1962 to 1966 and in the Vietnam War.
Monday also was a day for pleasant surprises.
Freshman Tyler Boyer was surprised to see his older brother, Army Staff Sgt. Steven Penick, up onstage for a visit before his next deployment.
“We don’t have surprises like this very often,” Hayden librarian Shannon Valora said.
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It takes a kind and caring person to make a connection with a child or adult with special needs. And, Tiffany Ripkoski-Taylor certainly fits into that skill set.